Sleep apnea is the condition where you stop breathing while you’re asleep. The periods where you stop breathing restricts your airflow for around 10 seconds at a time, and as your body is most relaxed when you are asleep, this is when this happens. When this happens, your blood oxygen level drops right down and your brain is triggered to wake up enough to breathe. It’s a clever system in the brain, but it’s also one that interrupts your sleep cycles enough for you to feel like you haven’t slept very well!

Those who experience sleep apnea may not have any clue that this is happening to them, and the constant triggering back to breathing every single night for hours at a time puts a huge strain on your health. You end up feeling constantly exhausted and wrung out and when it’s left and you don’t seek the help from an ENT doctor, you will find that your health suffers in the long term. Did you know that three in 10 men and one in five women have sleep apnea? It’s frighteningly common as a condition and you can bet that if you are dealing with interrupted sleep, apnea could be a cause.

What are the causes of sleep apnea?

Understanding the reasons behind sleep apnea can help you to get the correct treatment and seek help from an ENT doctor. There are two main causes of sleep apnea:

  • Obstruction of the airway
  • Disconnects between the lungs and the brain

When you fall asleep, the tongue and the throat muscles all relax – as they should – but the soft tissue in your mouth then falls back to obstruct the airway. Within ten seconds, your brain can tell there’s a problem and your body is triggered to wake up so that you can breathe. Some of the more detailed reasons obstruction of the airway is the following:

  • When you sleep on your back, the muscles relax enough to get in the way of your breathing.
  • The uvula in the back of your mouth can slip back when you’re asleep to obstruct the breathing.
  • When your tonsils are too large, the airway becomes narrowed and your throat obstructed as a result.
  • When you’re overtired, the muscles relax even more and this can contribute to obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Did you know that allergies, sinus infections and even flu can block the nasal passages? This can contribute to sleep apnea, too.
  • Your weight can often be a cause of obstructive sleep apnea, too. The fatty tissue around the neck can weigh down on the throat.

What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?

There are a range of symptoms that are associated with sleep apnea, but the most obvious one is being told that you snore very loudly or you gasp for breath overnight. The classic signs of sleep apnea include:

  • Snoring
  • Restlessness/insomnia
  • Gasping for breath
  • Night sweats
  • Dry or sore throat in the morning
  • Headaches on waking
  • A constant fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Swings in mood
  • Blood pressure worries
  • Lack of sex drive

How is sleep apnea treated?

With the help of a great ENT doctor, sleep apnea can be treated and managed correctly. You don’t have to worry about missing out on a peaceful night of sleep anymore; not when your ENT doctor can work with you to give you an effective and easy night of rest! Some of the most common ways to treat sleep apnea include the following:

  • Using a CPAP: A continuous positive airway pressure is a machine that’s standard for treating sleep apnea. You wear it while you sleep and it delivers a constant stream of air via a mask and this prevents your airway from being blocked. You’ll therefore be able to sleep better and wake feeling better and more energized, too.
  • Lifestyle changes are recommended: As sleep apnea can be affected by your diet and weight, it’s often recommended to lose weight, quit smoking and reduce how much alcohol you drink to help. This will help you to avoid obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Sleep positioners: Some ENT doctors will recommend the use of sleep positioners to prevent you sleeping on your back. Sleeping on your back puts you more at risk of sleep apnea so avoiding this is a good idea.
  • Surgery: If the above options don’t work for you, surgery is an option that can be chosen as a last resort. Your surgeons might recommend sinus surgery or even a tonsillectomy to help with your sleep apnea.

Contact an ENT Doctor today

You can contact ENT Specialists today to get an appointment for some help on (402) 983-9948.